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Summary / Analysis
Times of India
A lethal assassin fights for her life in Berlin during the Cold War as she uncovers a deadly game of spies.
We've seen a recent spike in strong female protagonists who can hold their own in battle; films like 'Wonder Woman', 'Ghost in the Shell', 'Valerian' and even 'Logan' come to mind. Charlize Theron made quite an impact as Furiosa in 'Mad Max: Fury Road'. Based on a graphic novel 'The Coldest City',' Atomic Blonde' is cut from the same cloth as 'John Wick' featuring gunplay and close quarters hand-to-hand combat that will make you wince. Keeping all that in mind, it isn't exactly a far stretch to seeing the Oscar-award winning actress as Lorraine Broughton – an MI6 agent who is more than capable of receiving and dishing out a thorough bashing.
On this front, Theron delivers by levelling the field to such an extent that her gender is almost irrelevant. Her skill-set is brutal and effective, but not unrealistic. This should be credited to director David Leitch, a former stuntman, who also directed some of the action in 'John Wick' and his dexterity with handling it is evident. There are gripping sequences in ‘Atomic Blonde’, and one in particular, that are a clever mix of camera work, editing and innovative fight choreography - enough to justify the cost of a ticket. However, Leitch isn’t as adept with storytelling and there are a number of twists and turns that you'll miss if you aren't paying close attention to the minor details. Additionally, the odd narrative choice to cut back and forth between Lorraine’s interrogation scenes as she replays the story that occurred in the past acts as a counterbalance to the tension of the fight scenes and renders some of the hard-work less potent.
Nevertheless, Theron's solid performance combined with high impact stunt work seals her resurgence as a formidable female action star. Besides her, James McAvoy seems to be on a roll, bringing a manic energy to David Percival and even stealing some scenes away from Theron. All the frenetic action is aided by a soundtrack that mirrors the rebellious sentiment around the fall of the Berlin Wall, so keep your ears out for some 80's punk, pop and rock music. ‘Atomic Blonde’ is stylish fun, with riveting fight sequences to keep you at the edge of your seats. Seeing that the foundation for a new franchise has been laid down here with ample conviction, Charlize Theron has created her own version of 'James Bond' - one that could easily last a few more rounds down the line.
The movie is based on the British graphic novel 'The Coldest City'.
Charlize Theron spent five years developing this project.
Charlize Theron reportedly cracked two teeth while filming action sequences for the film.
Charlize allegedly had eight personal trainers to help her master her intensely physical performance. She also trained with Keanu Reeves who was preparing for ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ (2017).
Atomic Blonde Plot Summary
Based on a graphic novel - 'The Coldest City', Atomic Blonde is set before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. James Gascoigne - an MI6 agent is being chased down by a car, which eventually pins him against another one. He is then shot dead by Yuri Bakhtin who takes a watch off his wrist before dumping the body into a river. The watch has a microfilm hidden in it, containing a highly coveted secret list of active Soviet field agents.
10 days pass before we see Lorraine Broughton going to a debriefing conducted by MI6 agent Eric Gray and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld while being watched by the MI6 head behind a two-way mirror. Here it's revealed that Gascoigne was carrying the List. An unidentified double agent named Satchel betrayed Gascoigne for this List, thus leading to his death.
From now, the film follows this back and forth timeline between Lorraine's flashbacks and debriefing as she narrates her mission. She reminisces about her intimate relationship with Gascoigne before he was killed. We see her sent to Berlin after his death to retrieve the List and uncover the identity of Satchel with the help of a contact there named David Percival. Percival is seen talking to Spyglass - a Stasi officer - from the German secret service, ready to defect to West Berling in exchange for information on the List. His life is threatened by a KGB arms dealer Aleksander Bremovych. Spyglass has managed to commit the names of all the Soviet agents to his memory.
In Berlin, Lorraine's identity is immediately compromised by Bremovych's agents who try to ambush her. She meets Percival after fighting her way in a car to escape them. Lorraine and Percival are being watched by a mysterious woman as they leave the site of the car crash. Lorraine meets with a German ally of the MI6 called The Watchmaker, an expert with watches. She then visits Gascoigne's apartment to uncover any intel. She finds evidence of Percival having contact with the deceased agent. Lorraigne is forced to fight her way out of the building after being ambushed again; this time by East German officers.
In the debriefing she mentions that Percival was the only other person who knew about her visit to the apartment, suggesting him as a possible suspect to be Satchel. Back in Berlin, she comes across the mysterious woman in a bar and although they have a mutual attraction Lorraine has her suspicions and confronts the woman aggressively who reveals herself to be a French agent Delphine Lasalle. After lowering her emotional guards, Lorraine gets intimately involved with Delphine who tells her she knows something about Percival but we're unable to understand this due to radio interference. Spyglass is being prepared by Lorraine and the Watchmaker for his transfer to West Berlin, along with his wife and daughter.
Bakhtin meets the Watchmaker and proposes to sell him the List. Instead, Percival encounters Bakhtin, killing him off to retrieve the List as he sees the names on it. He then meets Bremovych to transfer it to him, but Delphine manages to photograph this trade. In the present briefing, Eric Gray tells Lorraine that Percival had called them stating that he knew Satchel's identity. However, she wasn't informed by Percival.
Back in the past, Lorraigne is seen meeting with Kurzfeld on the Berlin Wall who hands her a newspaper. She finds a phone number on the newspaper and calls it to hear a message that Satchel has been compromised.
Percival offers to help them as they attempt to sneak across using a public protest as cover. However, he tips off KGB agents and manages to shoot Spyglass and wound him when Lorraine and the Watchmaker are distracted assisting his wife and daughter. Lorraine takes a wounded Spyglass into an abandoned building nearby to try to make an escape, but they are attacked by KGB agents. Lorraine engages them in close quarters armed and unarmed combat, in the film's longest fight sequence, deftly shot and edited to appear as a long extended take. Lorraine and Spyglass manage to escape in a car but are chased down again. Their car gets rammed into a river and Lorraine is unable to rescue Spyglass from drowning.
Percival goes to Lasalle's apartment where she's developing the photographs of his meeting with Bremovych. He kills her and tries to cover his tracks, as the Berlin Wall begins to be torn down in the background. By the time Lorraine reaches the apartment, it's too late for Delphine but she manages to find some evidence which confirms Percival's status. She also finds out that her coat had been bugged all along. Lorraine manages to intercept Percival a while later, wounds him and confronts him on where he was planning to give the List. After he says that it was going to the MI6, she shoots him in the head. Back in the briefing, she is asked how she could kill him to which she responds that she uncovered the traitor but did not know where the List was. The agents end the discussion and close the case. The MI6 head deems that the case is erased from their records.
A few days later we see Lorraine meeting Bremovych in Paris under the pretext of selling him the List. However, Bremovych confronts her as the double agent Satchel, which Percival told him during their earlier meeting. Lorraine is then attacked by his men and kills them all off including him, but not before revealing that she was playing him all along and helped bring down the Berlin Wall in the process. Lorraine then boards a private jet with Kurzfeld waiting for her, to reveal that she was an American CIA agent from the very beginning.